Sal Frieland (Clive Owen) strolls down a city street, the anonymous faces in the crowds streaming past him instantly tagged with pop-up IDs. Frieland’s a cop in a future where every brain is connected to a central server, his hardwired Google Glass eyeballs giving him access not just to individuals’ data but everything they’ve seen and heard, all of it recorded for posterity and occasionally self-incrimination. Then, he’s called to a murder scene and finds the mind of the victim has been hacked––the culprit gone without leaving a digital footprint of any kind. Is this ghost in the machine a serial killer, an assassin, or something else?
This is a pretty hip high school. Not only do they employ a once-promising, now boozy, crushingly charismatic author as an English teacher, they’ve just hired an acclaimed painter—also loaded with charisma—whose career has been derailed by rheumatoid arthritis. Because of a trumped-up antipathy between these reluctant academics, this private school is about to witness a battle between, as the title puts it, Words and Pictures. If the writer can stay sober long enough, he’ll teach the kids about the power of prose, and if the painter can stifle her bitterness, she’ll espouse the primacy of the image. It’s elbow patches vs. stained smock, plus a countdown to the first shag between these two spectacularly good-looking people.
Clive Owen and Juliette Binoche play wordsmith and picture-maker, respectively. The casting is a source of both appeal and disappointment in this one-note movie; the roles are large, but the material thin.